The Infiltrator

1.

Oh, bigot cry morning,

but it is too late to change, poor children,

for their words only echo what you have taught.

 

2.

Reluctant one, coarse and grate,

go mend your ditches and drink your harvest,

it is your prejudice that disturb the heart’s contentment.

 

3.

Together with two dark boys on foot under a sharp Chicago sky,

they wander in and out of consciousness (but warrant no response),

only to be ridiculed from behind the closed window.

 

4.

Struck down by conversations teeming with acronyms.

Our weak ears forced to listen to the difficulties,

by which you happily donate to the schoolyard, beat by beat.

 

5.

A childhood robbed of its pleasures, deprived of running and playing,

merely arguable by the fate of our daily bread.

I heard the sound of your voice, casually suggesting accusations.

 

6.

Befriending a crime is your chosen approach,

for you must take in order to banish the rocks from your path,

while upholding the nothingness, which you consider to be life.

 

7.

Your hoary head rears, spewing unattractive complaints,

the luckless and weary ones begrudgingly listen.

Deluged and left divided by the reasoning that you project.

 

8.

You cast your fears outward like a claw, only to intrude upon us.

Laying open your tasks corrects the despair of rejection and dismissal,

but you announce with sincere intention the inferior ones.

 

9.

We are haunted by your performance, casting its spell,

Presumptuous and volatile and ever the inescapable liar,

attired in the necessary costume to scale a bloody Kansas wall.

 

10.

Little ones sent to say: You just don’t know how hard it is to have two.

Why you ask of the given aggressiveness­—just like a peevish child.

Ah, sing your song, you fool, I will love you tomorrow, I will love you tomorrow.

 

Kim Kolarich

Kim Kolarich is a Pushcart Prize nominee. Her fiction was long-listed for The Fish International Short Story Prize, and a finalist for the William Faulkner-William Wisdom Creative Writing Competition. Her stories have appeared in the Bridport Prize Anthology, FreeFall, Julien’s Journal, 3711 Atlantic, 34th Parallel, Karamu, Rollick Magazine, After Hours, The Gap Tooth Madness, Streetwrite, Intrinsick Magazine, Paragraph Planet, The Furious Gazelle, Two Hawks Quarterly, and Third Coast Magazine

Sam Love

Japan’s Revenge

 

Like a flotilla revenging World War Two

an army of Japanese KonMari acolytes

are assaulting the cluttered disorder

rampant in our consumer laden homes

 

Mari Kondo, their high Netflix priestess,

advocates testing possessions for sparks of joy

and if there are no sparks

they’re off to Goodwill

 

For many, Mari Kondo is the antidote

to an out of control modern life

and by following the KonMari method

your home becomes a sanctuary of order

 

Yet like a time-consuming sponge

order nurtures conventional thinking

and studies show randomness

can spark creative ideas

 

This repackaged Shintoism

would have castrated the creativity

of Mark Twain, Thomas Edison, Albert Einstein,

and Steve Jobs who loved their messy desks

 

Somewhere on my desk are studies

linking messiness to creativity

but with so many paper piles

I am not sure where they are

 

 

Barbie Turns 60

 

Barbie you razor thin blonde

who mutilated so many body images

who worshipped consumption

of sports cars, fashions and dream houses

who dallied on and off

with Ken but never married

 

Of course, it’s easy to understand

the lack of long-term attraction

between the model “it” couple

Very photogenic, but missing

some major private parts

 

Now Barbie you have to realize

your frozen good looks

can’t last forever and

it’s time to face the reality

of hitting the big six o

and let some wrinkles show

and consider a plastic butt tuck

 

Soon Mattel will have to replace

your suburban dream house

with Barbie’s Assisted Living

No dream kitchen

just communal dining

No spacious rooms

just one room and

God Forbid a roommate

 

So, Barbie your lack of eros

may not have stimulated Ken

but capitalism will honor you

as the queen of consumption

who stimulated the economy

 

Barbie is a registered trademark of Mattel Inc.

 

Sam Love

Sam Love lives in New Bern, N.C. which is as good a place as any to observe the drama that currently passes for Western Civilization. He has published and produced enough material in mass circulation media including Washingtonian and Smithsonian magazines that he has earned the right to be a footnote. After years of work with visual images and linear print he turned to poetry so people can make the movie in their head. His poems have been published in Kakalak, Slippery Elm, Voices on the Wind, The Lyricist, Flying South, Sleet and other publications. Eno published by Duke University has published six of his environmental poems and four of his poems have been featured on Poetry in Plain Sight posters throughout North Carolina. His latest poetry book, Cogitation, is available from Unsolicited Press. His illustrated children’s book My Little Plastic Bag is available in Spanish and English and has won numerous awards including a Nautilus Award. He is currently president of the New Bern local Poetry Group that organizes a monthly open mike.

Outlaw Boxcar

If I had a white horse
with a mane you imagine
a horse should have when
riding it into the sheen
of what’s left of the moon
after a storm had taken
to it with electric carving
knives & a boom box
I would then ride into
my father’s building & say
Good boy Outlaw Boxcar
as that’s the kind of name
you give a horse when

you’re making amends
for being a punk instead
of a responsible son
& you take the fire stairs
five at a time the sound
of Boxcar’s iron shoes
on the cement like a tap
dancing competition broad-
cast into a tiled bathroom
& when you dismount
outside your fathers office
& knock like a gentleman
& say Dad it’s me I’m here
to be the son you never had
but wanted the corridor
going on into dark wood
& shadow then your father
is there filling the frame
of the door with a breaking
smile as he offers Boxcar
a palmful of coffee sugar

crystals then rubs his nose
& looks at me like a father
who knows his son has
come not home but into
the world of men You are

welcome here anytime
he says and then as if
an afterthought had set
off a roadside device
in his ear And next time
take the lift it’s big enough
for a clopper with a flame
for a mane and a son
with a horse-sized heart.

Anthony Lawrence

Anthony Lawrence has published sixteen books of poems, the most recent being ‘Headwaters’ (Pitt Street Poetry, 2016), which won the 2017 Prime Ministers Award for Poetry. He teaches Writing Poetry and Creative Writing at Griffith university, Queensland, and lives on Moreton Bay.

Waiters

Two Indian waiters in snug tuxedos

sit on steps a few doors down from

 

their deserted restaurant—I just passed it—

sharing a smoke and quiet talk, talk that could

 

be about the coming end of their run there,

about what other jobs might appear, about

 

whom they should call or visit:

a strategy session.

 

Yet so spare and emphatic is their conversation,

its silences inhabited by blue clouds of smoke,

 

that between their middle-aged declarations

of determination they each may be feeling

 

an unsparing circle closing in; feeling the

dread approach of the night they fear most:

 

the night they take their tuxedos off and

never have cause to put them back on—

 

no more trips to the dry cleaners, no more

updating the bow tie; instead, back to wearing

 

the loose, patterned shirtsleeves of cab drivers

pulling 12-hour shifts spelled only when parked

 

to eat curry out of plastic containers from the Bengali deli;

hours logged making drop-offs at trendy, Pan-Asian restaurants

 

whose young, stylishly dressed doormen—the age of

their own sons?—come right to the cab to open then—

 

after the fares step out—turn away while

slamming the door.

 

Mark Belair

Mark Belair’s poems have appeared in numerous journals, including Alabama Literary Review, Atlanta Review, The Cincinnati Review, Harvard Review, Michigan Quarterly Review, Poetry East and The South Carolina Review. His latest collection is Watching Ourselves (Unsolicited Press, 2017). Previous collections include Breathing Room (Aldrich Press, 2015); Night Watch (Finishing Line Press, 2013); While We’re Waiting (Aldrich Press, 2013); and Walk With Me (Parallel Press of the University of Wisconsin at Madison, 2012). He has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize multiple times. Please visit www.markbelair.com

A New Declaration of Independence

We are only asking them to leave, quietly and without making a fuss—

 

these men, here and elsewhere, who refuse their assent to laws

the most wholesome and necessary for the public good;

 

who make new laws about what we may or may not do with our bodies and our votes

but refuse any rules about what they may do;

 

who hide behind plastic shields and make us weep in the public streets;

 

who bring their guns into our churches and synagogues and mosques;

 

who under cover of darkness dump their coal ash and mercury and lead into our waters;

 

who argue without end that there is not enough money in any budget

for wages that would cover the rent with some left over

for a pomegranate or a bunch of the bright tulips in buckets by the check-out lanes;

 

who at last repair our leaking pipes and then raise the rent

so we must find a new apartment with the same loose tiles in the bathroom;

 

who quarter large bodies of armed troops among us

and spend our money on walls that separate butterfly from butterfly

without care for the swallowtails, satyrs, emperors, leafwings and brushfoots

that have always flown freely according to their inborn migration routes;

 

who spend our money to construct walls that separate parent from child

and lose even the memory of where each has been held

while we still need to rebuild our rusty bridges;

 

who send our children to distant lands

without telling them why, or teaching them the words to explain why

they must explode a bridge that others labored to build

so they could greet their neighbors across the river.

 

We could keep going—the list of offenses is long and growing longer.

But isn’t this enough?

We ask them just to leave, and to close the door behind them.

 

Susanna Lang

Susanna Lang’s newest collection of poems, Travel Notes from the River Styx, was published in 2017 by Terrapin Books. Other collections include Tracing the Lines (Brick Road Poetry Press, 2013) and Even Now (Backwaters Press, 2008), as well as Words in Stone, a translation of Yves Bonnefoy’s poetry (University of Massachusetts Press, 1976). A two-time Hambidge Fellow and recipient of the Emerging Writer Fellowship from the Bethesda Writer’s Center, she has published original poems and essays, and translations from the French, in such journals as Little Star, New Letters, Prairie Schooner, december, Verse Daily and American Life in Poetry. She lives and teaches in Chicago.

The Wait Is Now

We’re sitting in the Jimmy Johns

waiting for our foot-longs.

 

My father’s brand-new cane

a twisted length of black branch

that crack-cracks

every time he leans too heavy on it.

 

Outside a crowd gathers

around a Ford Mustang

with a kitten stuck

inside the wheel well, motor still

hot as black sand.

 

We ordered and paid

twenty minutes ago.

 

Two of the four teenagers

who run the place

stand outside wearing oven gloves

and one holds a box

to nest the kitten once she’s free.

 

My father peers

between window signage.

That’s a job for the fire department.

Someone call 911!

 

This music’s too loud,

my newly-diagnosed

mother says.

Can we go someplace else?

 

Each time the door opens,

I fingernail pinch

the delicate skin under my arm

—to stave away

the slice of kitten’s

reverberant meow-meows

from deep the metal gut.

 

 

Katy E. Ellis

Katy E. Ellis grew up under fir trees and high-voltage power lines in Renton, Washington and is the author of three chapbooks: Night Watch—winner of the 2017 Floating Bridge Press chapbook competition—Urban Animal Expeditions and Gravity (a single poem), which was nominated for a Pushcart Prize. Her poetry appears in a number of literary journals including Pithead Chapel, MAYDAY Magazine, Calyx, Borderlands: Texas Poetry Review, and the Canadian journals PRISM International, Grain and Fiddlehead. Her fiction has appeared in Burnside Review and won Third Place in the Glimmer Train super-short fiction contest. She has been awarded grants from the Elizabeth George Foundation, Seattle’s Office of Arts & Culture and Artist Trust/Centrum. Katy co-curates WordsWest Literary series, a monthly literary event in West Seattle.